Growing up in a tough part of Dallas with a mother who once struggled with a drug addiction and an absent father, Rajee Jones and his two younger sisters were raised largely by their grandmother. Around the time he started junior high, Jones and his family moved to Richardson, and Jones joined his school’s A.V.I.D. — Advancement Via Individual Determination — program, which helps first-generation college students prepare for higher education. His A.V.I.D. mentor, Joan Swim, pushed him to succeed.
“She’s the one who taught me to be accountable for my actions,” he said. “Anytime I go home, I speak to her A.V.I.D. class. I try to relate to her students because as a teacher she can only relate so much. A lot of them look up to me as a role model.”
Jones was accepted to several Texas colleges, but when he found out he had qualified to be an Emerald Eagle Scholar, his fate was sealed.
“This program really opened the door,” he said. “I always knew I wanted to go to college, but I didn’t know how I was going to do it. The Emerald Eagle program is a big help for me.”
Now Jones, a 2013 computer engineering graduate, furthered his role-model status at UNT as vice president of the National Society of Black Engineers, a member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and tutoring math and calculus students. He also worked as a student ambassador for the campus TRiO Student Support Services program, which offers assistance to first-generation college students, and completed a study-abroad program his freshman year.
Jones said the Emerald Eagle Scholars program has played a huge role in his success.
“I’m so thankful for how much the program has helped me,” he said. “Without it I really don’t know where I’d be. This program is the perfect thing for students in similar circumstances, who want to go to college but can’t afford it.”